Dantas’ Inferno: “Fall of an Opportunist”

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The legal woes of the Economist's opportunist: Infographic by the Folha de S. Paulo. Click to zoom (then learn Portuguese)

One of the weirdest things about Brazilian journalism is the fact that it still lends credence to what U.S. newspapers, and especially the New York Times, have to say about this country.”Kenneth Maxwell, in an op-ed in the Folha de S. Paulo

Oportunista caiu, diz ‘Economist’: An opportunist has fallen, says the Economist.

The Brazilian press — in this case, the Estado de S. Paulo — covering the world press covering Brazil.

The Limey Dismal Scientist seems to have gotten the story just about right, I reckon.

A revista britânica The Economist deu destaque na edição desta semana à condenação de Daniel Dantas. Em reportagem intitulada “A queda de um oportunista”, o controlador do Opportunity é tratado como banqueiro talentoso “que lucrou operando no espaço obscuro em que negócios e política se misturam no Brasil”.

The British magazine The Economist gave prominent play in this week’s edition to the guilty verdict against Daniel Dantas. In a report headlined “The fall of an opportunist,” the Opportunity founding partner is described as a talented banker “who made his money operating in the grey area where business and politics mix in Brazil.”

Yes, I know it is absurd for me to be retranslating a translation of the original Queen’s English.

A revista lembra o caso Kroll, relata a Operação Satiagraha e traz uma explicação do esquema que, segundo a Polícia Federal, Dantas usava para lavar dinheiro. “É a suposta influência de Dantas no âmbito do governo que criou sua notoriedade”, avalia. “Desfrutou de fácil acesso ao governo Fernando Henrique Cardoso, incluindo encontros com o presidente. Influência que migrou para o governo Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.”

The magazine recalls the Kroll case, narrates Operation Satyagraha, and explains the scheme the Brazilian federal police say was used to launder money. “It is Dantas’ alleged influence in the government that created his notoriety,” the magazine says. “He enjoyed ready access to the Cardoso government, including meetings with the president. Influence that migrated to the government of Lula da Silva.”

That seems like a fair general assessment to me. The man has PT lawyers working for him, this is not a fact in dispute (or necessarily evidence of wrongdoing on anyone’s part, depending on the nature of the lobbying activities bought and paid for.)

Após registrar as alegações da defesa e a tática de desqualificar o processo, a Economist cita que a Justiça no Brasil é marcada por “intermináveis recursos”. “Grandes processos são comumente disputados na imprensa, para depois malograrem.” O texto encerra dizendo que “é cedo” para saber se o ministro da Justiça, Tarso Genro, acerta ao dizer que o julgamento mostra o bom funcionamento das instituições no País.

After describing the banker’s defense and the tactic of attempting to question the integrity of the proceedings, the Economist says that Brazilian justice is characterized by “an interminable appeals process.” “Major trials are often disputed in the pages of the press only to go nowhere in the end.”

Many Dickensian cases can be adduced in support of that generalization.  Someday, a Brazilian novelist will emerge to write the tropical Bleak House that this aspect of Tupi civilization richly deserves. Rather than Jarndyce v. Jarndyce, Magalhães v. Magalhães.

The article concludes by saying that “it is still too early to tell” whether justice minister Genro was right to say that this proceeding shows that Brazil’s institutions are functioning well.

Tactfully put.

There is still, for example, the question of the astonishingly injudicious behavior of a heavily politicized senior judiciary, such as the controversial chief justice, Gilmar Mendes.

Take the ongoing  war of words with the lower court judge in the Dantas case. The Painel column of the Folha de S. Paulo — cheerfully vicious political gossip au gogo — has this today, for example:

Ao encerrar uma aula na noite de anteontem, Gilmar Mendes foi indagado por alunos sobre o fato de o juiz Fausto De Sanctis haver sugerido, na sentença em que condenou Daniel Dantas, que o banqueiro teria um informante no Supremo Tribunal Federal.

Closing a lecture the other evening, Mendes was asked by students about the fact that judge de Sanctis had suggested, in his sentence condemning Dantas, that the banker had an informant inside the Supreme Court.

On Mendes’ moonlighting job as partner in a legal education institute, and why this has raised ethical questions about the man, see also this post. The gist of it:

While serving as the equivalent of Brazil’s solicitor-general, Mendes founded a legal education company that received government contracts from his own agency, the Supreme Court, and other government bureaus.

The reference to a supposed “Dantas informant inside the Supreme Court” is to reports that a retired military counterintelligence officer hired for the Supreme Court’s security division — a new department that Mendes himself established — was in regular touch with one of the men found guilty of bribing a federal policeman, while working for the Court.

When Mendes went on a highly publicized crusade-tirade about the alleged bugging of his offices, his publicity campaign was anchored in a cover story in Veja magazine.

That story, in turn, was anchored in a report from that very same security office, supposedly “proving” that such surveillance had occurred.

A federal police investigation of the charge has so far been unable to substantiate it.


Sem mencionar nomes, o presidente da Corte criticou a “ideologia típica de “O Alienista'”, em que apenas uma pessoa parece “detentora de todas as qualidades e virtudes da cidadania, e as demais sejam e devam ser consideradas más”. E concluiu:

Without mentioning any names, the Chief Justice criticized “the ideology typical of Machado de Assis’s The Alienist, according to which a single person appears to monopolize all the qualities and virtues of citizenship, while all the others are to be considered evil.” He concluded:

-Vale lembrar que, na alegoria de Machado de Assis, só depois de prejudicar uma comunidade inteira veio à luz o óbvio: tudo não passava de delírio de Simão Bacamarte.

“It’s worth remembering that, in Machado’s allegory, it was only after an entire community was destoryed that the obvious truth emerged: It was all just a delusion of Simão Bacamarte’s.”

Mendes might eventually hear an appeal in the Dantas case.

And here he is, suggesting that the lower-court judge in case is a raving lunatic.

This is not anomalous behavior, either.

The Justice is a wild and crazy ex parte animal.

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